The Anarchist Inside

It's often observed that the state, having established its monopoly on public life, moved on to the personal ' and that, having conquered the personal in general, now seems resolved to conquer it in detail.

From 'public' roads and rules for using them to drivers' licenses to mandatory seatbelt laws requiring airbags and regulating the miles per gallon a car must have before it can be sold to you.

From decentralized defense to standing army to mass recruitment to draft registration.

From regulating medicine to the war on drugs to 'Know Your Customer' to random urinalysis of just about anyone dealing with government in more than the most incidental way.

We are, as Proudhon said, 'watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated, regimented, closed in, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, evaluated, censored, commanded . . . noted, registered, entered in a census, taxed, stamped, priced, assessed, patented, licensed, authorized, recommended, admonished, prevented, reformed, set right, corrected . . . subjected to tribute, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, pressured, mystified, robbed . . . repressed, fined, despised, vexed, pursued, hustled, beaten up, garroted, imprisoned, shot, machine-gunned, judged, sentenced, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed, and to cap all, ridiculed, mocked, outraged and dishonored . . . .'

These incursions into the most personal areas of our lives are daily more visible, and while one might at first mistake them as the random writhings of a monster looking for new space into which a sprouting tentacle might comfortably fit, it seems more likely to me that we've passed the point beyond which the logic of George Orwell's 1984 applies.

IngSoc, the government of Orwell's Oceania , operates on fear. Not on fear of riot or uprising, but fear that so much as a molecule of potential for such might be left in existence. The superstate is not safe so long as anything ' anything-- remains beyond its reach. And fear, in turn, is also the superstate's weapon: It is used to preemptively snuff out those inconvenient, kindling flames of individualism.

That's why I'm optimistic.

Yes, I just said what you thought I just said.

While some would hold (incorrectly, I maintain) that the stateless society is an unachievable goal, how much more unachievable is the elimination of every last vestige of human independence?

Look around you. If you meet a hundred people today, 99 of them will, upon close examination, prove to be anarchists.

Yes, I just said what you thought I just said again.

There's the guy whose plates are expired . . . and which won't be renewed until and unless he gets pulled over and receives a ticket ' if even then.

There's the lady who's using her roommate's leftover antibiotics to fend off a sinus infection instead of getting a prescription.

There's the family man who works a second job for cash on the barrelhead ' no W-4s and no mention on the 1040.

Did I mention the pot smokers, the Sunday night poker players, the part-time 'escorts,' the security guard with the unregistered small-frame 9mm pistol tucked in his sock?

They're anarchists. They don't know it, and they may never know it. They're just doing what comes naturally -- carving out stateless reservations in their own souls and in their own lives. Those reservations don't need fences or 'No Trespassing' signs because they are, by their very nature, usually invisible. The keepers of those reservations do not fear the state ' or if they do, that fear is insufficient to keep them from living their lives, their way, if only in one small area.

That refusal to bend to fear, in whatever small way -- that anarchist impulse inside each of us -- is the last, invulnerable redoubt of freedom. The tide of liberty may rise or fall. The dream of the stateless society may advance toward, or drift away from, realization. The state may become more powerful, or it may briefly disintegrate, only to reform and once again launch its assault on freedom. But so long as humans remain humans, ultimate victory remains forever outside its grasp.

Time is on our side.

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Thomas L. Knapp's picture
Columns on STR: 6

Thomas L. Knapp is publisher of Rational Review.